Medical Errors and Surgical Malpractice: What You Should Know

Medical errors occur too often. They are the third leading cause of death in the United States, as reported in a May 2016 research paper authored by physicians at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland and published in the British Journal of Medicine. The authors reported that more than 250,000 deaths per year in the United States are due to medical error, representing approximately 10% of all deaths. Hundreds of thousands of others are fortunate to survive medical errors committed by their physicians, but are left permanently injured.

Some of the 250,000 annual medical error deaths are attributable to surgical “never events.” Surgical “never events”, as the name implies, represent devastating and preventable surgical events, which never should have happened to the patient. Some common surgical never events include but are not limited to the following:

  • Foreign objects left in patient
  • Wrong site surgery
  • Wrong patient surgery
  • Intra-operative or immediate post-surgical death in a patient classified by anesthesia as healthy

In 2012, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Center reported the following: each year, more than 4,000 surgical never events occur in the United States. The resulting injuries or deaths caused by never events are understandably disturbing to patients and their families who enter surgery expecting an uneventful procedure followed by a full recovery.

To be successful in a surgical malpractice case, the patient must prove that the patient’s physician deviated from the standard of care of a reasonably competent physician. Never events virtually always represent malpractice. Some surgical complications or incidents do not qualify as “never events” but still represent viable causes of action nonetheless. As an attorney who has represented many individuals and families who have fallen victim to never events, and other surgical complications, I have extensive experience investigating the facts of a particular surgical complication, and then making a recommendation whether or not to proceed with a lawsuit.

It is important to note that you always have the right to bring a civil lawsuit even though you signed a surgical consent form. Many people believe that a surgical consent form, which identifies some surgical complications, somehow eliminates their right to bring a civil lawsuit later on. That is not accurate.

If you believe that you or a family member has been the victim of a surgical error, the attorneys at Decof, Barry, Mega & Quinn, P.C. are available to meet and speak with you about your circumstances. For many, just getting answers about what caused their surgical complication(s) can be gratifying.

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